Friday, December 3, 2010

The Hedgehog and the Pig.eons

A hedgehog once took up his abode under a palm-tree, on which roosted a pair of wood-pigeons, that had made their nest there and lived an easy life, and he said to himself, 'These pigeons eat of the fruit of the palm-tree, and I have no means of getting at it; but needs must I go about with them.' So he dug a hole at the foot of the palm-tree, and took up his lodging there, he and his wife. Moreover, he made a piece of prayer besides the hole, in which he shut himself and made a show of piety and abstinence and renunciation of the world.

The male pigeon saw him praying and worshiping and inclined to him for his much devoutness and said to him, 'How long hast thou been thus?' 'Thirty years,' replied the hedgehog. 'What is thy food?' asked the bird and the other answered, 'What falls from the palm tree.' And what is thy clothing?' asked the pigeon. 'Prickles,' replied the hedgehog; 'I profit by their roughness.' 'And why,' continued the bird, 'hast thou chosen this place rather than another?' 'I chose it, answered the hedgehog, 'that I might guide the erring into the right way and teach the ignorant.' I has thought thee other-guise than this,' rejoined the pigeon; 'but now I feel a yearning for that which is with thee.'

Quoth the hedgehog, 'I fear lest they deed belie thy speech and thou be even as the husbandman, who neglected to sow in season, saying, "I fear lest the days bring me not to my desire, and so I shall only waste my substance by making haste to sow." When the time of harvest came and he saw the folk gathering in their crops, he repented him of what he had lost by his tardiness and died of chagrin and vexation.' 'What then shall I do,' asked the pigeon, 'that I may be free from the bonds of the world and give myself up altogether to the service of my Lord?' 'Betake thee to preparing for the next world,' answered the hedgehog, 'and content thyself with a pittance of food'

'How can I do this,' said the pigeon, 'I that a bird and may not go beyond the palm-tree whereon is my food? Nor, could I do so, do I know another place wherein I may abide.' Quoth the hedgehog, 'Thou canst shake down of the fruit of the palm what shall suffice thee and thy wife for a year's victual; then do ye take up your abode in a nest under the tree, that ye make seek to guided in the right way, and do ye turn to what ye have shaken down and store it up against the time of need; and the fruits are spent and the time is long upon you, address yourselves to abstinence from food.'

'May God requite thee with good,' exclaimed the pigeon, 'for the fair intent with which thou hast reminded me of the world to come and hast directed me into the right way!' Then he and his wife busied themselves in knocking down the dates, till noting was left on the palm-tree, whilst the hedgehog, finding whereof to eat, rejoined and filled his den with dates, storing them up for his subsistence and saying in himself, 'When the pigeon and his wife have need of their provant, they will seek it of me, trusting in my devoutness and abstinence; and from what they have heard of my pious counsels and admonitions, they will draw near unto me. Then will I seize them and eat them, after which I shall have the place and all that drops from the palm-tree, to suffice me.'

Presently the pigeon and his wife came down and finding that the hedgehog had carried off all dates, said to him, 'O pious and devout-spoken hedgehog of good counsel, we can find no sign of the dates and know not on what else we shall feed.' 'Belike,' replied the hedgehog, 'the winds have carried them away; but the turning from the provision to the Provider is of the essence of prosperity, and He who cuts the corners of the mouth will not leave it without victual.' And he gave not over preaching to them thus making a show of piety and cozening them with fine words, til they put faith in him and entered his den, without suspicion, whereupon he sprang to the door and gnashed his tusks, and the pigeon, seeing his perfidy manifested, said to him, 'What has tonight to do with yester-night? Knowest thou not that there is a Helper for the oppressed?

Persian Tales: 10101 Nights